There are few neighborhoods in Madrid that bring back fond and easy-going memories of yesteryear and, simultaneously, stir up excitement and “joie de vivre”. This is the case of the so-called “Barrio de las Letras” (District of Letters or Literary Quarter) in the heart of the city. Here, you can take a walk through the history of Spain’s Golden Century. This is where the foremost authors of Spanish literature had their homes. We’re talking about Cervantes, Quevedo, Lope de Vega and Tirso de Molina. It can be said that Spanish theatre was born in these narrow streets. Plays were commissioned, actors hired, plays published and performed, heated literary squabbles carried out amongst followers of opposing factions. Ever since I can remember, I walked the streets of the Barrio de las Letras in search of peace of mind and inspiration. As I said, the magic of literature comes alive as one strolls through these streets. Look down on the pavement and you know what I’m talking about. Then you can step into the Ateneo, one of Madrid’s landmark cultural institutions, a haven of free speech and intellectual pursuits which has lasted through years of Spain’s many political turmoils. Of course, there are the terraces at the Santa Ana Square, right in front of the Teatro Español. Hemingway used to stop by at the “Cervecería Alemana” which still harbors lively encounters of local theatre professionals. The entire district exudes an odd mixture of down to earth atmosphere and refinement. Tourists, expats and locals mingle easily sharing a common state of mind, a longing for emotional well being that nurtures the spirit. Anywhere you go at the Barrio de las Letras you feel as if you belong. For me, it’s been like that ever since I can remember. I’m sure you’ll feel like that, too. Good vibes in the heart of Madrid.
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